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Selecting an IoT Platform

The past several years have seen a huge growth in the number of companies offering IoT Platforms. The market research firm IoT Analytics reported 613 companies offering IoT platforms in 2021! This is a mind-blowing number. The IoT platforms vary widely in capabilities but typically focus on one or more of the building blocks of IoT systems – physical devices, internet connectivity, and digital services. In one way or another, they provide software (or in some cases hardware too) that gives companies a head-start when building IoT systems. There are so many companies offering platforms that it is nearly impossible to keep up with all of them.

 Charting the right path, avoiding pitfalls, maximizing your success.

If you are getting into IoT and not familiar with IoT platforms, you might be asking yourself questions like –  What makes up an IoT platform? What advantages could they have for my company? How do I select an IoT platform? 

Let’s tackle these questions one by one. 

What makes up an IoT platform?
 

Features

True IoT platforms typically provide the following features:

  • Digital services running in the cloud that physical devices connect to
  • Software that runs on devices that communicates with the digital services
  • A framework or schema for data messaging and remote command & control of devices
  • Security infrastructure to handle device registration, authentication, security credential management
  • Tools and methods for updating device firmware over-the-air (OTA)
  • Web dashboards for viewing the state of devices and interacting with the system

IoT  platforms may or may not also provide other features, including:

  • Analytics tools and dashboards
  • Digital twins or shadows
  • Application deployment orchestration
  • Machine learning orchestration
  • Rules engines
  • Fleet management tools
  • Integrations to other services
  • Gateway or hub support for bridging devices to the cloud
  • Cellular network plans for devices
  • Web or mobile application interfaces and templates

Example Elements of an IoT PlatformIoT-Platform-Blog-General-1024x270.png

Types of IoT Platforms

IoT platforms are not all the same. Their features and target use-cases vary a lot. However, at a high level, they can be grouped into two main categories.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Offered by the big cloud service providers

PaaS platforms provide building blocks to do most things an IoT system needs, but it is up to you to write the custom code that connects it all together. With a PaaS provider, you don’t have to worry about underlying server hardware, but you have to compose their services into a working architecture and manage the deployment of applications that use their services. This is more work but allows more flexibility and the opportunity to customize the system to your needs. Ongoing costs of a PaaS IoT platform are typically lower than a SaaS, but expertise is required to ensure correct usage patterns to avoid larger costs. The big cloud providers all offer PaaS IoT platforms. This includes Amazon Web Services (AWS)Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Software as a Service (SaaS) – Offered by numerous software vendors, large and small

With a SaaS provider, you get access to use the software application they deploy and manage for you. Or you can license it and deploy it yourself. SaaS platforms typically provide some configurability and integrations with other systems. There is much less work on the cloud side as this is mostly taken care of for you. However, you are limited to the features that the IoT platform provider offers. You may need to invest more in bridging the platform to your other systems. Depending on your use case, a SaaS may provide more advanced features out-of-the-box than a PaaS. Ongoing costs are likely to be higher with SaaS IoT platforms. Examples of SaaS IoT platform providers include PelionLosantFriendly TechnologiesSoftware AGBlynkParticleThingsBoard, and Golioth.

What advantages could they have for my company?

Benefits of IoT Platforms – There are a lot.

The goal of IoT platforms is to provide a foundation for product-makers to build IoT solutions on top of.  IoT platforms take care of all the fundamental features that all solutions need (e.g. “the plumbing”), so you can focus on adding value with the differentiating features that you add on top. Users of IoT platforms get a huge benefit from economies of scale – especially if using the most popular platforms. This translates into improved security, more robust services, and lower costs. For these reasons, we always recommend using an IoT platform.

How do I select an IoT platform?

The Big Question – Should you use a PaaS or SaaS?

At SpinDance, we believe in lean and agile business principles. This usually translates into taking a staged approach and focusing on different priorities in each stage. IoT is a journey, not a destination. We have seen the most success when companies tackle each of their challenges in stages, don’t try to do too much too quickly, and don’t lock themselves into long-term decisions too early. Choosing whether to use a PaaS or Saas depends on the stage you are in along your IoT journey.

Our Answer – It depends on your stage in your IoT journey. 

The-IOT-Journey-Graphic-White2-scaled-e1641320879831-1024x553.jpg

If you are just starting on your IoT journey…

In the disconnected stage your main goals are to learn what technology can do for you, develop a vision for your new product or service with that knowledge, and evaluate your vision based on customer input. At this stage, you shouldn’t be worried too much about scale or efficiency. You need to nail down the problem you want to solve and the solution you propose to solve it with. Ash Maurya, entrepreneur and author of Running Lean, says that “Building a successful product is fundamentally about risk mitigation.” To evaluate and reduce your risk, you need to test your assumptions.

We often recommend building Proof of Concepts and Prototypes in this stage. These experiments are crucial to help you quickly validate the feasibility, desirability, and viability of your plans. They also help rally your organization and potential customers around new possibilities.

SaaS IoT platforms have their most advantage in this stage. They can help you get devices connected and data flowing quickly because they typically have more features ready out-of-the-box. However, since your knowledge about the future is limited at this stage, we recommend you avoid long-term commitments so you don’t get stuck with a solution that doesn’t work for you down the road.

 If you are working on your first connected product…

In the connecting stage, you should have some confidence in your problem-market fit and you should have a better idea of what benefits IoT can bring to your business. Now you need to build a system to deal with the rigors of production. You also need to adapt your organization to support your new product or service.

We recommend shifting your focus to creating robust experiences for your customers spanning across the physical devices and digital interfaces they interact with. You need to consider the other parts of the system such as mobile applications, web applications, database storage, operations dashboards, etc that you’ll need for your customers and your internal teams to interact with the system.

PaaS IoT platforms start to have a strong advantage in this stage. More often than not, we see the needs of the company outstretch the features provided by a SaaS. Therefore, there is a need to augment the capabilities of the SaaS platform or bridge it to your other systems. For example, if a SaaS IoT platform does not provide long-term data storage, you will need to create a bridge that pulls data from the platform’s service and puts it into a database that you control in the cloud. Maintaining and monitoring this bridge is non-trivial which may lead to you wanting to consolidate everything into your existing cloud. For reasons like this, we typically recommend PaaS platforms at this stage.

If you already have connected products out in the market…

The connected or accelerating stages are all about maximizing the benefit of IoT, taking advantage of the valuable data you are likely getting, and aligning your costs to revenue. You should be focused on scaling up your system while you improve your connected customer relationships and build up new processes and skills. These are not insignificant tasks. It takes in-house expertise. Your team needs to understand your systems, be able to improve efficiencies and optimize costs. You’ve got to get data to the right place when you need it, and it has to drive reliable actions across all your infrastructure.

PaaS IoT platforms offer the most advantage at this stage. You have more control of your systems and are not locked into a specific software platform. You have the ability to customize and have tighter integration with your existing systems. This lets you adapt and evolve to meet the needs of your customers over time.

Which production architecture works for you?

Considering the needs of your production system likely go beyond the needs of your prototypes and minimum viable product (MVP), it is best to think about what additional features you will need to augment the capabilities of your selected IoT platform. The diagrams below show the difference between augmenting a SaaS platform versus a PaaS platform.

An IoT System Built Around SaaS Platform
IoT-Platform-Blog-Bridge-to-SaaS-1024x385.png

An IoT System Built on a PaaS PlatformIoT-Platform-Blog-PaaS-1024x444.png

What else should be considered when choosing an IoT Platform?

When selecting an IoT platform, you are also choosing an ecosystem to join. This has ramifications that go beyond just the platform. Consider the following questions:

  • What device types are already supported / how easy is it to support the devices I need?
  • How close does the platform fit my use-case?
  • How easy is it to get started and use?
  • What skills do I need on my team to utilize the platform?
  • Will my team get the support we need to succeed?
  • Is the service reliable / highly available / trustworthy?
  • What additional features and services will I have to develop?
  • What systems do I need to integrate with? How easy is that?
  • What will my ongoing costs be for the IoT platform as well as other systems I need to maintain.
  • What happens if I want to change to a different IoT Platform?
  • Am I building the skills and knowledge we need inside my organization to succeed in the future?

Jumpstarting your IoT Systems with Starter Components

Building a system based on a PaaS platform offers a lot of flexibility and control. But you are faced with configuring and deploying your own applications to get your system running. There are a lot of reasons why you don’t want to create things from scratch. You need a head start. You need to follow good patterns and industry best practices. So, what should you do?

We believe that starter components, a.k.a. solution templates, solution implementations, etc, offer a great jumpstart to standing up a robust system. The big cloud companies know this and offer templates for various use-cases. These can be used in any stage of the  IoT Journey. For example, AWS has a Smart Product Solution solution implementation that features capabilities to connect devices, process and analyze telemetry data, etc within a scalable framework. A fundamentally great feature of this is that it is based on AWS Cloud Development Kit (CDK) which means it can be programmatically deployed in minutes. Microsoft Azure has similar solution examples that can also be deployed and tested relatively quickly.

Additionally, there are a lot of benefits from working with a solution provider that has experience with IoT systems and can offer good guidance and support. SpinDance recently collaborated with our partner TwistThink to build Auris Cloud, a set of customizable IoT components that capture our combined years of experience working on IoT systems. Auris components are customizable to meet the needs of many different types of use cases and are deployable on AWS. Things like security, performance, and scalability are baked into the system. Auris can be optimized for different performance and cost models, integrated with other systems, and deployed as an application that you control. We believe this approach offers a great trade-off between fully custom and off-the-shelf solutions.

Summary

At SpinDance, we don’t recommend you try to build an IoT system from scratch. There are great solutions available from both SaaS and PaaS providers. They offer massive benefits in enabling you to build secure and scalable IoT solutions. However, we recommend you consider your organization’s goals and the stage you are in before locking yourself into an IoT platform. Be sure to start with your customer needs and build backward. Prototype and get things right before scaling. A SaaS IoT platform can be great for building proof of concepts or prototyping but may not work for you long term. For maximum customization, flexibility, and tighter integration with your other cloud applications we recommend a PaaS IoT platform. And for the lowest risks and maximum benefits, we recommend using pre-built components that can be customized to your needs.

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Experts believe that smart parking management systems aid you in generating more income. Let's find out!

It doesn't take rocket science to understand why consumers avoid brick and mortar shopping at all these days. Understand, parking issues have been a sole reason for people to avoid going to shopping malls. 

As customer behaviour changes, shopping centres have come under immense pressure to find car parking problems in their shopping malls. Every effort is made to improve and enhance the traditional shopping experience, ultimately driving the revenue. 

Every minute a customer spends looking for parking is one less minute they have to shop.

So let's get into why experts believe that the smart parking management system will cater best to your needs.

Smart Parking Booking System: The Need of an Hour

What does a smart parking management system mean?

A smart parking management system using IoT is simply a that incorporates IoT technologies. Technologies such as sensing devices identify which parking area is empty, and often these give you a real-time parking map.

What Are the Issues Faced by the Customers While Parking Their Vehicles? 

  • Saturated Parking Spaces- The most significant problem today is the number of vehicles is rising, and the parking space remains the same. Thus, resulting in clogging. 
  • Overpaying- Sometimes, drivers/ customers are unaware of the duration they will stay at a particular place. Therefore, they sometimes overpay the parking charges. 
  • Environmental Impacts - Parking lots accumulate a lot of pollutants that do not get absorbed and hence flushed into the water bodies during rain. 
  • On-street or Off-street parking- The customer does not get sufficient space in the mall's parking lot or their destined location. These again cause heavy traffic jams. 
  • Insufficient use of existing parking space- People are always in a hurry, and thus they do sometimes lack patience. At times, they do not park properly. As a result, there is insufficient space for other vehicles to park.

So How Does a Smart Parking Management System Aid You?

The smart parking system with IoT works like a boon for your parking system. The problems in parking seem to be resolved with these parking problems. Here are the benefits of a smart parking management system.

  • Won't it be great for customers to find a parking spot before they leave their house? Well, parking systems using IoTprovide you with these benefits. They can check and also book their parking lot before leaving their home.
  • Once a customer enters the parking space, they are easily navigated to their allotted parking spot.
  • The reduction in traffic, as the driver is clear about the designated location.
  • One can get data to tell them the forecasted peak times and give frequent reports about the current situation.
  • Stop paying extra dues; with smart parking, one can pay real-time payments and electronic payments, making a seamless experience.

As a result, this increases the value of customers' shopping trips. Moreover, their productivity also increases while maximizing their shopping experience and lowering their fuel cost.

Features of Smart Parking System

If you have thought of integrating a smart parking system into your enterprise, it's vital to update yourself with the necessary features to enhance the experience. 

  • In-door Navigation
  • Wallet Management
  • Live Reports
  • Automated Pass Management
  • Penalty and Violation Management
  • Revenue Analysis
  • Zone Management
  • Booking Management
  • Car Counters
  • Vehicle Identification 

A Glimpse of Challenges Faced During the Smart Parking Management System Project

Here is the list of problems faced through the implications of the smart parking project. 

The primary issue while implementing a smart parking management system is that many sensors have to be connected to the internet to get information for a single booking slot. You need to have an array of routers, and that seems a bit troublesome. 

However, all the sensors are internally connected and can work individually without being connected to the internet with the mesh connection

So, only a specific sensor is connected to the internet, passing the information to all other sensors. It works excellent as other routers don't need an internet connection. 

Secondly, what if the navigation shown to the users is inaccurate? Your customer can reach other locations, which can be a bit troublesome. 

With the proper implementation of a parking control system, you can keep the hardware when there are turns, leading to fewer misleads. Also, one should use pixel by pixel to draw a path between the hardware. This works as a perfect solution that would lead to bare minimum errors. 

Such minor technicalities are a boon for your automated parking management system. However, it would be best if you had experts who are well versed with these systems and can guide you perfectly for the proper implementation of the projects.

What Are the Components Used in the IoT Smart Parking System?

  • A sensor is vital as it detects the presence of vehicles.
  • A microcontroller that will aid you to process your data.
  • A cloud platform for storing the data.
  • A mobile application that would give you control over this process of smart parking. 

What Does the Future Hold?

The smart parking management system has begun to accelerate its demand. With the limited land resources, smart parking seems the only viable solution. 

Think for a while that it's impossible to create space for parking. Therefore, instead of thinking about making extra parking spaces, an effective technology-based solution works great for the situation. 

You can optimize the spaces available at their best. One should be careful about how you will implement these solutions.

Being a leading IoT application development company, we offer the best smart parking management solutions.

Our clients trusted us, and we have never failed them or ever will. For any guidance, you can connect with our executives and clarify your doubts.

FAQs

What Is the Purpose of a Smart Parking System? 

In layman terms, the purpose of smart parking systems is to reduce the time and hassle caused to people while parking their vehicles.

How Many Types of Parking Are There?

There are four types of parking; these are (i) Parallel Parking, (ii) Angled Parking, (iii) Perpendicular Parking & (iv) Double Parking.

How Does a Smart Parking System Work?

Smart parking is a cost-effective and most efficient way of giving real-time information to users. The sensors installed in the pavements detect space and notify the user. Thus, one can know the availability of the parking spaces.

What Are the Advantages of a Parking Management System? 

  • Provides more protection.
  • Easily managed.
  • Cost-effective.
  • Easy to maintain.
  • Real-time information.
  • Increased footfalls
  • Less pollution
  • Fewer traffic issues
Read more…

Progressive web apps are the next big thing for the mobile web today. It was by Google in 2015 and since then it has already attracted a lot of attention as it offers relative ease of development. This is with instant wins for the application’s user experience. You would agree a progressive web app is simply a web app installed on devices to deliver a user experience that is similar to that associated with native apps. Think of a PWA as a combination of web apps and native apps; they serve to ease the usability of a given app across a variety of devices. One of the biggest advantages PWAs offer is that they help companies target multiple platforms in one go. But what does any of that have to do with IoT? Why don’t you read on and find out?

1. Better user experiences: Given the usability of IoT and the many, many benefits it brings to the table, it ought to come as no surprise that IoT-driven apps are used across not only different industries but also different departments within any given industry. So what role do PWAs play here? Well, PWAs help ensure seamless workflows via service workers as well as their ability to manage device caches. In this context, PWAs also help deal with challenges related to data latency; this means users gain the ability to pause their task and be able to resume from right where they left off.
2. Improved security: In the general digital world, security is one of the biggest concerns as is. So imagine how much more important it becomes when we talk about IoT. Unsurprisingly, IoT apps necessitate high levels of security measures to avoid the risk of hacks, data breaches and safeguard data. To that end, TLS makes sure that the delivery of PWAs is executed via secure HTTPS connections to assure the security of the data. Plus, PWAs also keep secured and unsecured content on web pages distinct, thus further closing any gaps in the security of distributed networks.
3. Engaging design: The thing about the Internet of Things is that it involves a continued exchange of data to enable the requisite control over devices and processes from wherever the users may be. Now, for IoT to truly achieve its potential, the apps involved in the process must be responsive and users should be able to access the required data from across devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. As you can imagine, building an app for each of such devices and then countless different screen sizes, OS platforms, hardware capabilities, etc. within these subsets is not an easy task. Thankfully, we have PWAs to help address this particular problem and ease IoT development projects.

The business world is becoming decidedly complex on account of the rapid evolution of technology. Thankfully, the market has plenty of solutions that empower companies to keep up with the times. The union of two of such leading technologies, i.e. Progressive Web Apps and the Internet of Things, is among these solutions that stand to empower companies to not only survive but also thrive in today’s cut-throat market. As demonstrated via the discussion above, the duo can, together, help companies offer substantially improved user experiences, achieve robust levels of security, and so much more. If you too want to leverage the might of this union for your business, then we recommend you start looking for a web app development team right away. Their expertise will prove to be invaluable to the success of your company’s endeavors.

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In my last post, I explored how OTA updates are typically performed using Amazon Web Services and FreeRTOS. OTA updates are critically important to developers with connected devices. In today’s post, we are going to explore several best practices developers should keep in mind with implementing their OTA solution. Most of these will be generic although I will point out a few AWS specific best practices.

Best Practice #1 – Name your S3 bucket with afr-ota

There is a little trick with creating S3 buckets that I was completely oblivious to for a long time. Thankfully when I checked in with some colleagues about it, they also had not been aware of it so I’m not sure how long this has been supported but it can help an embedded developer from having to wade through too many AWS policies and simplify the process a little bit.

Anyone who has attempted to create an OTA Update with AWS and FreeRTOS knows that you have to setup several permissions to allow an OTA Update Job to access the S3 bucket. Well if you name your S3 bucket so that it begins with “afr-ota”, then the S3 bucket will automatically have the AWS managed policy AmazonFreeRTOSOTAUpdate attached to it. (See Create an OTA Update service role for more details). It’s a small help, but a good best practice worth knowing.

Best Practice #2 – Encrypt your firmware updates

Embedded software must be one of the most expensive things to develop that mankind has ever invented! It’s time consuming to create and test and can consume a large percentage of the development budget. Software though also drives most features in a product and can dramatically different a product. That software is intellectual property that is worth protecting through encryption.

Encrypting a firmware image provides several benefits. First, it can convert your firmware binary into a form that seems random or meaningless. This is desired because a developer shouldn’t want their binary image to be easily studied, investigated or reverse engineered. This makes it harder for someone to steal intellectual property and more difficult to understand for someone who may be interested in attacking the system. Second, encrypting the image means that the sender must have a key or credential of some sort that matches the device that will decrypt the image. This can be looked at a simple source for helping to authenticate the source, although more should be done than just encryption to fully authenticate and verify integrity such as signing the image.

Best Practice #3 – Do not support firmware rollbacks

There is often a debate as to whether firmware rollbacks should be supported in a system or not. My recommendation for a best practice is that firmware rollbacks be disabled. The argument for rollbacks is often that if something goes wrong with a firmware update then the user can rollback to an older version that was working. This seems like a good idea at first, but it can be a vulnerability source in a system. For example, let’s say that version 1.7 had a bug in the system that allowed remote attackers to access the system. A new firmware version, 1.8, fixes this flaw. A customer updates their firmware to version 1.8, but an attacker knows that if they can force the system back to 1.7, they can own the system. Firmware rollbacks seem like a convenient and good idea, in fact I’m sure in the past I used to recommend them as a best practice. However, in today’s connected world where we perform OTA updates, firmware rollbacks are a vulnerability so disable them to protect your users.

Best Practice #4 – Secure your bootloader

Updating firmware Over-the-Air requires several components to ensure that it is done securely and successfully. Often the focus is on getting the new image to the device and getting it decrypted. However, just like in traditional firmware updates, the bootloader is still a critical piece to the update process and in OTA updates, the bootloader can’t just be your traditional flavor but must be secure.

There are quite a few methods that can be used with the onboard bootloader, but no matter the method used, the bootloader must be secure. Secure bootloaders need to be capable of verifying the authenticity and integrity of the firmware before it is ever loaded. Some systems will use the application code to verify and install the firmware into a new application slot while others fully rely on the bootloader. In either case, the secure bootloader needs to be able to verify the authenticity and integrity of the firmware prior to accepting the new firmware image.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that the bootloader is built into a chain of trust and cannot be easily modified or updated. The secure bootloader is a critical component in a chain-of-trust that is necessary to keep a system secure.

Best Practice #5 – Build a Chain-of-Trust

A chain-of-trust is a sequence of events that occur while booting the device that ensures each link in the chain is trusted software. For example, I’ve been working with the Cypress PSoC 64 secure MCU’s recently and these parts come shipped from the factory with a hardware-based root-of-trust to authenticate that the MCU came from a secure source. That Root-of-Trust (RoT) is then transferred to a developer, who programs a secure bootloader and security policies onto the device. During the boot sequence, the RoT verifying the integrity and authenticity of the bootloader, which then verifies the integrity and authenticity of any second stage bootloader or software which then verifies the authenticity and integrity of the application. The application then verifies the authenticity and integrity of its data, keys, operational parameters and so on.

This sequence creates a Chain-Of-Trust which is needed and used by firmware OTA updates. When the new firmware request is made, the application must decrypt the image and verify that authenticity and integrity of the new firmware is intact. That new firmware can then only be used if the Chain-Of-Trust can successfully make its way through each link in the chain. The bottom line, a developer and the end user know that when the system boots successfully that the new firmware is legitimate. 

Conclusions

OTA updates are a critical infrastructure component to nearly every embedded IoT device. Sure, there are systems out there that once deployed will never update, however, those are probably a small percentage of systems. OTA updates are the go-to mechanism to update firmware in the field. We’ve examined several best practices that developers and companies should consider when they start to design their connected systems. In fact, the bonus best practice for today is that if you are building a connected device, make sure you explore your OTA update solution sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you may find that building that Chain-Of-Trust necessary in today’s deployments will be far more expensive and time consuming to implement.

Originally posted here.

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4 key questions to ask tech vendors

Posted by Terri Hiskey

Without mindful and strategic investments, a company’s supply chain could become wedged in its own proverbial Suez Canal, ground to a halt by outside forces and its inflexible, complex systems.

 

It’s a dramatic image, but one that became reality for many companies in the last year. Supply chain failures aren’t typically such high-profile events as the Suez Canal blockage, but rather death by a thousand inefficiencies, each slowing business operations and affecting the customer experience.

Delay by delay and spreadsheet by spreadsheet, companies are at risk of falling behind more nimble, cloud-enabled competitors. And as we emerge from the pandemic with a new understanding of how important adaptable, integrated supply chains are, company leaders have critical choices to make.

The Hannover Messe conference (held online from April 12-16) gives manufacturing and supply chain executives around the world a chance to hear perspectives from industry leaders and explore the latest manufacturing and supply chain technologies available.

Technology holds great promise. But if executives don’t ask key strategic questions to supply chain software vendors, they could unknowingly introduce a range of operational and strategic obstacles into their company’s future.

If you’re attending Hannover Messe, here are a few critical questions to ask:

Are advanced technologies like machine learning, IoT, and blockchain integrated into your supply chain applications and business processes, or are they addressed separately?

It’s important to go beyond the marketing. Is the vendor actually promoting pilots of advanced technologies that are simply customized use cases for small parts of an overall business process hosted on a separate platform? If so, it may be up to your company to figure out how to integrate it with the rest of that vendor’s applications and to maintain those integrations.

To avoid this situation, seek solutions that have been purpose-built to leverage advanced technologies across use cases that address the problems you hope to solve. It’s also critical that these solutions come with built-in connections to ensure easy integration across your enterprise and to third party applications.

Are your applications or solutions written specifically for the cloud?

If a vendor’s solution for a key process (like integrated business planning or plan to produce, for example) includes applications developed over time by a range of internal development teams, partners, and acquired companies, what you’re likely to end up with is a range of disjointed applications and processes with varying user interfaces and no common data model. Look for a cloud solution that helps connect and streamline your business processes seamlessly.

Update schedules for the various applications could also be disjointed and complicated, so customers can be tempted to skip updates. But some upgrades may be forced, causing disruption in key areas of your business at various times.

And if some of the applications in the solution were written for the on-premises world, business processes will likely need customization, making them hard-wired and inflexible. The convenience of cloud solutions is that they can take frequent updates more easily, resulting in greater value driven by the latest innovations.

Are your supply chain applications fully integrated—and can they be integrated with other key applications like ERP or CX?

A lack of integration between and among applications within the supply chain and beyond means that end users don’t have visibility into the company’s operations—and that directly affects the quality and speed of business decisions. When market disruptions or new opportunities occur, unintegrated systems make it harder to shift operations—or even come to an agreement on what shift should happen.

And because many key business processes span multiple areas—like manufacturing forecast to plan, order to cash, and procure to pay—integration also increases efficiency. If applications are not integrated across these entire processes, business users resort to pulling data from the various systems and then often spend time debating whose data is right.

Of course, all of these issues increase operational costs and make it harder for a company to adapt to change. They also keep the IT department busy with maintenance tasks rather than focusing on more strategic projects.

Do you rely heavily on partners to deliver functionality in your supply chain solutions?

Ask for clarity on which products within the solution belong to the vendor and which were developed by partners. Is there a single SLA for the entire solution? Will the two organizations’ development teams work together on a roadmap that aligns the technologies? Will their priority be on making a better solution together or on enhancements to their own technology? Will they focus on enabling data to flow easily across the supply chain solution, as well as to other systems like ERP? Will they be able to overcome technical issues that arise and streamline customer support?

It’s critical for supply chain decision-makers to gain insight into these crucial questions. If the vendor is unable to meet these foundational needs, the customer will face constant obstacles in their supply chain operations.

Originally posted here.

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Many businesses are already taking advantage of IoT solutions to improve their efficiency and create new revenue streams. However, if you're considering launching a connected business, one of the most important factors to contemplate is the cost of IoT software implementation. This article will give you an overview of what goes into IoT software development and maintenance. 

Different factors feed into the cost, but the two most common concerns for companies getting into IoT are the cost of initial software development (or “integration”) and ongoing expenses after devices have been deployed. Unfortunately, as key stakeholders ponder over the ever-present build vs buy dilemma, the ones who lean towards building often tend to underestimate both significantly.

Let's take a look at a minimum set of software products you would need today to run a connected product, business, or service. First of all, firmware - software that is uploaded and then runs on the hardware. It provides a low-level control for the device's specific logic. Networks and connectivity – it's a part of firmware development, but I would move it into a separate domain, crucial for any IoT implementation.

Cloud is any service made available to users on demand via the Internet from a cloud computing provider's servers. The IoT servers have different purposes, like administration, monitoring, data gathering and analysis. Applications - once the device is connected, in today's reality you would need a user interface to interact with the device or service, configure it, control and monitor remotely, visualize processes, etc. It can be a touch control, a mobile app, a web app, a voice app (e.g. Amazon Alexa skill), etc.

Working with deployed connected products also usually requires two different types of apps: customer-facing applications (remote control, automation settings, maintenance alerts) and applications for internal company use (fleet management, analytics, device health tracking, performance tracking and maintenance alerts). And one thing is to offer an app, and a totally different thing is to build an app people will actually love to use. The latter requires a particularly strong UI/UX expertise in addition to the expected front-end, back-end and QA resources. 

As part of an IoT solution, you'll need additional storage capacity and processing power to perform analytics, run reports, and house the vast amounts of data that will be generated. Invoicing for these capabilities can vary—from a fixed monthly cost to metered billing—so make sure you understand the pricing model to anticipate cash flow better.

Various IoT platforms offer parts of the solutions for the software needs mentioned above. However, it often takes at least 3-5 different vendors to get everything an IoT powered business needs. Not only is it challenging to manage so many vendors, but also the costs really start adding up, making IoT implementation and maintenance pricing prohibitive for many companies, especially the smaller ones.

Fortunately, there are now options like Blynk IoT platform that have launched solutions tailored specifically at small businesses and startups. As a result, engineers and entrepreneurs worldwide can build and commercialize connected products without the heavy investment typically required to start an IoT-enabled business. Anyone with an MCU, some coding skills, and a great product idea can create an IoT business. And their monthly software costs will be less than what they pay for a typical TV subscription in the US.

Out-of-the-box, Blynk is supposed to cover 90-100% of software needs a business typically faces in the first 2-3 years of IoT operations. The platform functionality includes device provisioning and management, data hosting in the cloud, mobile and web apps for customers and staff, firmware over-the-air updates, user and organization management, data analytics, all kinds of automations and much more.

 

IoT software - build or buy?

As you can see, building your own IoT software from scratch is not a cheap endeavor, especially with a team based in the USA. If you have all of the right people on board and have a bulletproof ROI model for your IoT investment - go for it, build in-house. But if you are an OEM whose main focus remains on their core products and you care about optimizing costs and your time to market - then you are probably better off leveraging a solid IoT platform. Those folks have already spent those years (and in most cases, millions) building out the software you need and testing it out with real clients, in real world conditions, with all of the priceless learnings that come with that.

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Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, as the name suggests, enable a company, no matter the industry, to better plan the use and management of its resources and achieve seamless operations. Such solutions, when integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT), i.e. a network of connected devices that enables the exchange of data in real-time, can work wonders in the manufacturing sector. No, really. Now, if you are wondering why that is, allow us to demonstrate via some key benefits of this duo.

  1. Better management of assets: Perhaps one of the best things about technologies and their evolution that helped businesses tend to their assets, machines, and equipment much better than before, i.e. not wait to tend to it till it has broken down and rendered unproductive, even if temporarily so. But thanks to IoT sensors embedded in such assets, it becomes that much easier to identify any wear and tear, any issues, etc. across their lifetime. These factors are then flagged to the ERP software, which then further informs the appropriate teams and people responsible for the maintenance of such assets. This allows companies to undertake preventive maintenance, thus prolonging the life of their assets. It also helps ensure that operations are not interrupted since maintenance work can be scheduled in a manner to prevent or minimize downtime.
  2. Access to real-time analytics: As the basic idea of IoT suggests, what they do is double up as a source of 24x7 information. They glean data collected from the sensors and then channel said data into the requisite systems. This ability to collect data at all times, from all the connected devices, means manufacturing businesses can process the data through ERP systems to gain access to highly valuable information such as market trends, processes that might need improvements, any possible quality issues, and so much more. Such information, in turn, drives much more informed strategies and marketing-related decisions and that too in real-time.
  3. Improved quality control: Quality is typically one of the key concerns on the priority list of any business involved in manufacturing, no matter what it is that one may be making. Of course, this is where long-established, archaic quality checks would come in, but the problem is that it is quite time-consuming, prone to high levels of human error, etc. This problem, thankfully, is easily addressed with an IoT-integrated ERP solution, which can empower companies and their management to better the quality of their offerings via round-the-clock monitoring of their production processes.

As the world and the technologies around us continue to evolve at a dizzying pace, ERP solutions have emerged as the crowd favorite for all modern businesses. Now, as evidenced from the above discussion, the said popularity of enterprise software development, fortified with advanced technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence, etc., can bring a world of benefits to manufacturing companies as well as those operating in other sectors across the globe.

Hence, driving the demand for such solutions further up. With that being said, if you too wish to make use of all the aforementioned benefits and countless others such as automation, better levels of customer service, and more, you know the integration of ERP with IoT is the right way forward.

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Have tyou ever imagined you would one day wake up to news that technology is influencing an industry as offbeat as fashion? Well, here we are in this phase of tech evolution, where we would soon get to wear apparel not from clothing lines like Gucci or Saint Laurent but probably from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google or more.

Yes, smart clothing seems to be the future of wearable technology that kickstarted with ambitious projects like Google Glass. Today, we have first generation Iot wearable technology devices like smartwatches, health monitors, FitBits and more but soon, we will have clothing with embedded sensors that will connect to the internet.

Wearable fashion or smart clothing will be part of the Internet of Things revolution and soon give us insights on our vitals, temperature, hydration levels and bring in a range of predictive analytics concepts into our everyday life.

Excited?

We are, too and that’s why we decided to publish a post that explores what smart clothing is and how it is redefining conventions.

Let’s get started.

Smart Clothing Is The Future Of The Wearables Industry

Let’s start with some numbers. Statistics from the World Economic Forum revealed that around 10% of the people around the world will wear clothes that connect to the internet by 2025. 

This is a really good sign for the smart wearable technology industry. And if you’ve been wondering if this concept is something new or fresh, it’s not. Smart clothing has been a micro niche for a long time with several sports companies like Nike and Adidas rolling out very specific lines of smart clothes for sports purposes. What is new is the approach of mainstream commercialization of smart clothing. 

The idea is to embed IoT-specific peripherals like sensors, batteries and more into the fabric of clothes and connect the entire ecosystem to an app for visualization of diverse insights. With the app, consumers can also execute a couple of fancy actions like changing the design or color of their apparel in real time, change hues and do more.

To give you a quick idea of how remarkable the concept of smart clothing is, here are some pointers:

Smart clothing is highly beneficial in keeping track of vitals in people. Technology is also being developed to monitor the accumulation of brain fluids in real time and report stakeholders and doctors about consequences.

  1. The predominant use of smart clothing lies in the sports industry, where several metrics could be monitored by coaches of individual players and the entire team to reach fitness and tournament goals.
  2. From a manufacturer’s perspective, fraudulent and unauthentic copies of labels and apparels can be eliminated from the market through codes and layered validation mechanisms.
  3. Patients in hospitals could wear smart clothing to track their recovery, reactions to medications, notify or call for nurses and doctors and more.
  4. People suffering from dementia or Alzheimers could sport smart dresses to enable their friends and families to track them from a distance.
  5. Adventurers, spelunkers, high-altitude trekkers and more could also benefit from smart clothing with details on oxygen levels, anticipated temperature, location tracking modules, hydration levels, humidity sensors and more.

Though this looks futuristic and ambitious, the biggest challenge for the smart clothing companies would be to incorporate IoT solutions into their fabrics. The human body consistently generates sweat and heat and there are chances that water from sweat could damage batteries or sensors embedded in the clothes. When we fix these concerns and deliver optimized outfits, smart clothes could very well be what we wear to work every day in the coming years.

Smart Fashion Products In The Market

Like we mentioned, smart clothes are in development and some products are actually available in the market as prototypes. Tons of Kickstarter campaigns are exploring the limitless possibilities of smart fashion as well. For a better clarity on what the products are, here are some real world examples. 

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Smart Jackets

The best product in development is the smart jacket. Since 2015, two market players - Google and Levi’s - have been collaborating to launch smart jackets with touch-sensitive fabric. In this, capacitive threads made of copper have been developed and used as the jacket’s fabric to allow users to use their smartphones by just using their hands and gestures. 

Minority Report vibes anyone?

Smart Socks

An inevitable accessory, socks have always been in our wardrobes.Smart socks are here to replace the conventional ones and give you a more immersive experience. 

What could be immersive in socks you ask? 

Well, smart socks could sense the pressure you put on your foot when walking, calculate your walking speed, the distance you cover (and could cover) and offer a detailed visualization of insights from multiple data points. This could influence the way you walk as well.

Smart Shoes

If we’re making our socks smart, why leave behind shoes? Somebody out there had a similar thought and the result is a pair of shoes that tracks your fitness, speed, pressure and most importantly, lets you control your television using your feet. All you have to do is extend your foot, point at something on your television and press a button. We’re sure there would be more experiences added to the product as it evolves.

Smart Sleepwear

Sleep has always been a concern for most of us. While some of us oversleep, a few of us hardly get good sleep. There are tons of factors influencing our sleep including our sleeping positions, stress and anxiety levels and more. 

Smart sleepwear, however, is here to fix our broken and disconnected sleep patterns by giving us insights on breathing, heart rates, sleep positions and more. The best part is that you don’t have to wear an additional wristband for this. The fabric has embedded devices that take care of its intended purposes.

Is Smart Clothing The New-Age Market Wearable?

Wearable tech plays a crucial role in the tech space because it’s probably something that could be the most integral to people. Conventional wearable technology devices like wristbands, smartwatches, eyewear and more appear and function as extensions but that’s not the case with clothing.

It is us and who we are. From a consumer’s perspective, there’s no challenge involved whatsoever in maintaining smart clothes. It’s on companies to develop and launch products that could take in the regular wear and tear of humans and be resistive to it, be washable and more. 

If these preliminary challenges are taken care of seamlessly by companies, smart clothing could easily become the new-age market wearables in the future. It’s similar to what electric vehicles are to the automotive industry. 

Wrapping Up

This is an exciting time to be alive and innovations like these are proof of our collective wisdom taking us to a new level. Let’s wait and see if our favorite clothing brands join the smart clothing bandwagon and launch personalized clothing just the way we would like it individually. Also, let’s see what more innovation is waiting on the cards in this space.

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With a lot of buzz in the industry, the Internet of Things, a.k.a, IoT, has successfully gained traction. Confused about what an IoT is? Don't be because you have been using it literally in your everyday life, and if not you, then definitely someone you know, for example, smartwatches, fitness devices, self-driving cars, smart microwaves, etc.

An IoT is a network of connected devices where the data and information are interlinked in a way you might not know!

Now that the concept of IoT is briefly cleared, let's see how it could become the fifth revolution in the dairy industry.

2018 has seen a fourth industrial revolution, which was a new step in the production, automatization, and computerization of the processes by using the data provided by the IoT devices. One might think this concept is only used in industries like health & fitness or electronics, but the revolution is no less in agro.

As per a study, in 2016, an agro-tech company received a massive amount of $3.2 billion investment. This provides enough evidence to show the growing graph of the need for digitalisation in every aspect of dairy farming.

 

Why is the need for smart dairy farming?

 

With the vastly growing industry, it has become the need of the hour to be up-to-date with the essential technology for the growing competition. To keep up with the healthy living of the livestock, it is essential to prevent any illness by diagnosing it at an earlier stage.

For 97% of the U.S. dairy farms, it is more than just their source of income and is a family-owned business. This also means that most of them have been into livestock farming for generations, but the business is not the same as decades before.

Smart dairy farming using IoT can become revolutionary solutions to improve farm capacity, reduce animal mortality and increase dairy output.

To meet the growing demand for dairy with the increasing population, especially in the developed countries, better tools and specialized equipment are required. IoT integrated smart-collars serve the purpose.

 

How does the smart collar work?

 

The smart collar is a complete IoT-enabled cattle management system with a physical product linked with a digital screen.

The cattle tracking device with an inbuilt GPS gives a real-time location of the cattle and sends the signals to the owners every quarter of an hour.

The collars get connected with the routers installed near the farming field, where they will get signals from.

The vital sensitive devices will be bridged to the collar strap, continuously providing reports over the software dashboard screen. As the belt is installed, the data gets transferred and stored in the form of graphs and charts.

 

What are the benefits of smart dairy farming using IoT?

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Auto-Milking Process

 

Manual milking is a time-consuming process; instead, it also includes more staffing. IoT embedded smart collar belts can resolve the problem more efficiently with less manpower by introducing auto milking.

Since auto-milking is just a robotic system and is entirely automated, it is unaware of the temperature and any diseases affecting the cattle. The machine will yield all the cattle at the same time, the same way.

When we link IoT to the cattle, essential factors are looked upon, which otherwise can get ignored if done manually.

Temperature monitoring, disease tracking, and nutritional requirements are few, tracked down with a smart belt, and helps better quality milk production.

 

Tracking the heat cycle

 

Manually yielding milk to a cow that is not at its heat cycle would lead to low fertility. To continue the best quality milk, cattle must give birth to one calf a year to maintain the lactation period.

A lactating cattle undergo heat every 21-28 days but, is it possible to know that manually and that too accurately? It can be do-able but can take a lot of time.

The heat can stress down the cattle leading to lower milk production and, if yielded simultaneously, can further reduce the fat, protein, casein, and lactose content in milk.

To prevent such errors, smart collars would send alarms to the owner on its dashboard screen. It will notify when is the right time to yield, resulting in better milk production. 

 

Tracking the movement with GPS

 

The tracking collars installed with the GPS will give real-time data allowing individuals to know the accurate information and location of the animals.

The smart collar works best in the field of around 5-10 cattle, as each of them will work as a personal tracker and give owners a whole valuable time to focus on one livestock full time.

Investing over manpower comparatively seems less costly at the start. Still, as time passes by, IoT for cattle becomes a sustainable option and can help your business grow bigger in no time. 

 

Health tracking

 

Healthy eating leads to a healthier life. It works the same in all living entities on the planet. Many studies and experts say that "rumination in cattle is an indicator of health and performance"

The traditional method of visual analyses of ruminations was a process that required a workforce and was performed only when on the field. This is also limited to a particular population level; hence, the chances of errors increase.

What does one get to know about every cow's health quality by sitting idle at a comfortable place? The IoT-enabled software system will track individual cow's rumination data and will help producers to invite when one needs more attention.

Although visual observations can be trusted to access rumination activity in a cow, this method may not provide an accurate result when the challenge arrives to observe at a population level. It would hamper the health standards of the cattle. 

 

Decrease mortality with security alerts

 

What if one needs to know how much grazing a cow did on that particular day? It can only be possible by manually observing it. Furthermore, how to analyse if the rumination is being done effectively?

Monitoring the changes and behaviors of the herd is one of the most significant and time-consuming tasks.

Using IoT devices, such as smart neck belts, it gets easier to monitor fishy cattle movements. The belt sends alarms any time it detects that something is "Off."

The sensors will be embedded in the neck strap around the cow's neck, which will help farmers personally supervise the cow's movement and respond accordingly.

Smart sensors will automatically gather and store the data and will help farmers prevent any growing health issues. 

 

Control Disease Outbreaks

 

These speechless living are never going to deal with their health issues on their own. So whether or not there are any suspicious changes in their behavior, they are very likely to miss out upon some diseases.

The only way left to inspect the diseases is mostly by diagnosing yourself, which is almost certainly going to risk many other cattle lives too.

Lameness, foot and mouth disease, mastitis, and milk fever are some of the most common fatal diseases in cattle. These all can be avoided early and can save farmers from troublesome and financial crashes in the future.

The system will alert the farmer when it needs assistance with the help of an embedded smart vital monitoring device in the collar.

 

In the nutshell

 

In the world of "connecting everything," it not only connects the devices but information and data which can circulate within a span of milliseconds. So why not use the advantages of such devices when it comes to some unexpected outcomes?

Traditional methods of cattle farming are good enough. But, they might cripple milk quality and lead to a massive loss of cash flow if not looked upon. Cattle farming is not an easy job. It needs 24 hours of continuous monitoring and observations to have a successful income.

An IoT is a real-time data collection, precisely a replacement of manpower but a more refined version of it. By introducing the "smart cow" concept, the time and labor are reduced, and productivity increases.

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By Ashley Ferguson

Thanks to the introduction of connected products, digital services, and increased customer expectations, it has been the trend for IoT enterprise spend to consistently increase. The global IoT market is projected to reach $1.4 trillion USD by 2027. The pressure to build IoT solutions and get a return on those investments has teams on a frantic search for IoT engineers to secure in-house IoT expertise. However, due to the complexity of IoT solutions, finding this in a single engineer is a difficult or impossible proposition.

So how do you adjust your search for an IoT engineer? The first step is to acknowledge that IoT solution development requires the fusion of multiple disciplines. Even simple IoT applications require hardware and software engineering, knowledge of protocols and connectivity, web development skills, and analytics. Certainly, there are many engineers with IoT knowledge, but complete IoT solutions require a team of partners with diverse skills. This often requires utilizing external sources to supplement the expertise gaps.

THE ANATOMY OF AN IoT SOLUTION

IoT solutions provide enterprises with opportunities for innovation through new product offerings and cost savings through refined operations. An IoT solution is an integrated bundle of technologies that help users answer a question or solve a specific problem by receiving data from devices connected to the internet. One of the most common IoT use cases is asset tracking solutions for enterprises who want to monitor trucks, equipment, inventory, or other items with IoT. The anatomy of an asset tracking IoT solution includes the following:

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This is a simple asset tracking example. For more complex solutions including remote monitoring or predictive maintenance, enterprises must also consider installation, increased bandwidth, post-development support, and UX/UI for the design of the interface for customers or others who will use the solution. Enterprise IoT solutions require an ecosystem of partners, components, and tools to be brought to market successfully.

Consider the design of your desired connected solution. Do you know where you will need to augment skills and services?

If you are in the early stages of IoT concept development and at the center of a buy vs. build debate, it may be a worthwhile exercise to assess your existing team’s skills and how they correspond with the IoT solution you are trying to build.

IoT SKILLS ASSESSMENT

  • Hardware
  • Firmware
  • Connectivity
  • Programming
  • Cloud
  • Data Science
  • Presentation
  • Technical Support and Maintenance
  • Security
  • Organizational Alignment

MAKING TIME FOR IoT APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT

The time it will take your organization to build a solution is dependent on the complexity of the application. One way to estimate the time and cost of IoT application development is with Indeema’s IoT Cost Calculator. This tool can help roughly estimate the hours required and the cost associated with the IoT solution your team is interested in building. In MachNation’s independent comparison of the Losant Enterprise IoT Platform and Azure, it was determined that developers could build an IoT solution in 30 hours using Losant and in 74-94 hours using Microsoft Azure.

As you consider IoT application development, consider the makeup of your team. Is your team prepared to dedicate hours to the development of a new solution, or will it be a side project? Enterprise IT teams are often in place to maintain existing operating systems and to ensure networks are running smoothly. In the event that an IT team is tapped to even partially build an IoT solution, there is a great chance that the IT team will need to invite partners to build or provide part of the stack.

HOW THE IoT JOB GETS DONE

Successful enterprises recognize early on that some of these skills will need to be augmented through additional people, through an ecosystem, or with software. It will require more than one ‘IoT engineer’ for the job. According to the results of a McKinsey survey, “the preferences of IoT leaders suggest a greater willingness to draw capabilities from an ecosystem of technology partners, rather than rely on homegrown capabilities.”

IoT architecture alone is intricate. Losant, an IoT application enablement platform, is designed with many of the IoT-specific components already in place. Losant enables users to build applications in a low-to-no code environment and scale them up to millions of devices. Losant is one piece in the wider scope of an IoT solution. In order to build a complete solution, an enterprise needs hardware, software, connectivity, and integration. For those components, our team relies on additional partners from the IoT ecosystem.

The IoT ecosystem, also known as the IoT landscape, refers to the network of IoT suppliers (hardware, devices, software platforms, sensors, connectivity, software, systems integrators, data scientists, data analytics) whose combined services help enterprises create complete IoT solutions. At Losant, we’ve built an IoT ecosystem with reliable experienced partners. When IoT customers need custom hardware, connectivity, system integrators, dev shops, or other experts with proven IoT expertise, we can tap one of our partners to help in their areas of expertise.

SECURE, SCALABLE, SEAMLESS IoT

Creating secure, scalable, and seamless IoT solutions for your environment begins by starting small. Starting small gives your enterprise the ability to establish its ecosystem. Teams can begin with a small investment and apply learnings to subsequent projects. Many IoT success stories begin with enterprises setting out to solve one problem. The simple beginnings have enabled them to now reap the benefits of the data harvest in their environments.

Originally posted here.

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By GE Digital

“The End of Cloud Computing.” “The Edge Will Eat The cloud.” “Edge Computing—The End of Cloud Computing as We Know It.”  

Such headlines grab attention, but don’t necessarily reflect reality—especially in Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) deployments. To be sure, edge computing is rapidly emerging as a powerful force in turning industrial machines into intelligent machines, but to paraphrase Mark Twain: “The reports of the death of cloud are greatly exaggerated.” 

The Tipping Point: Edge Computing Hits Mainstream

We’ve all heard the stats—billions and billions of IoT devices, generating inconceivable amounts of big data volumes, with trillions and trillions of U.S. dollars to be invested in IoT over the next several years. Why? Because industrials have squeezed every ounce of productivity and efficiency out of operations over the past couple of decades, and are now looking to digital strategies to improve production, performance, and profit. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a world where human intelligence and machine intelligence—what GE Digital calls minds and machines—connect to deliver new value for industrial companies. 

In this new landscape, organizations use data, advanced analytics, and machine learning to drive digital industrial transformation. This can lead to reduced maintenance costs, improved asset utilization, and new business model innovations that further monetize industrial machines and the data they create. 

Despite the “cloud is dead” headlines, GE believes the cloud is still very important in delivering on the promise of IIoT, powering compute-intense workloads to manage massive amounts of data generated by machines. However, there’s no question that edge computing is quickly becoming a critical factor in the total IIoT equation.

“The End of Cloud Computing.” “The Edge Will Eat The cloud.” “Edge Computing—The End of Cloud Computing as We Know It.”  

Such headlines grab attention, but don’t necessarily reflect reality—especially in Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) deployments. To be sure, edge computing is rapidly emerging as a powerful force in turning industrial machines into intelligent machines, but to paraphrase Mark Twain: “The reports of the death of cloud are greatly exaggerated.”

The Tipping Point: Edge Computing Hits Mainstream

We’ve all heard the stats—billions and billions of IoT devices, generating inconceivable amounts of big data volumes, with trillions and trillions of U.S. dollars to be invested in IoT over the next several years. Why? Because industrials have squeezed every ounce of productivity and efficiency out of operations over the past couple of decades, and are now looking to digital strategies to improve production, performance, and profit. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a world where human intelligence and machine intelligence—what GE Digital calls minds and machines—connect to deliver new value for industrial companies. 

In this new landscape, organizations use data, advanced analytics, and machine learning to drive digital industrial transformation. This can lead to reduced maintenance costs, improved asset utilization, and new business model innovations that further monetize industrial machines and the data they create. 

Despite the “cloud is dead” headlines, GE believes the cloud is still very important in delivering on the promise of IIoT, powering compute-intense workloads to manage massive amounts of data generated by machines. However, there’s no question that edge computing is quickly becoming a critical factor in the total IIoT equation. 

What is edge computing? 

The “edge” of a network generally refers to technology located adjacent to the machine which you are analyzing or actuating, such as a gas turbine, a jet engine, or magnetic resonance (MR) scanner. 

Until recently, edge computing has been limited to collecting, aggregating, and forwarding data to the cloud. But what if instead of collecting data for transmission to the cloud, industrial companies could turn massive amounts of data into actionable intelligence, available right at the edge? Now they can. 

This is not just valuable to industrial organizations, but absolutely essential.

Edge computing vs. Cloud computing 

Cloud and edge are not at war … it’s not an either/or scenario. Think of your two hands. You go about your day using one or the other or both depending on the task. The same is true in Industrial Internet workloads. If the left hand is edge computing and the right hand is cloud computing, there will be times when the left hand is dominant for a given task, instances where the right hand is dominant, and some cases where both hands are needed together. 

Scenarios in which edge computing will take a leading position include things such as low latency, bandwidth, real-time/near real-time actuation, intermittent or no connectivity, etc. Scenarios where cloud will play a more prominent role include compute-heavy tasks, machine learning, digital twins, cross-plant control, etc. 

The point is you need both options working in tandem to provide design choices across edge to cloud that best meet business and operational goals.

Edge Computing and Cloud Computing: Balance in Action 

Let’s look at a couple of illustrations. In an industrial context, examples of intelligent edge machines abound—pumps, motors, sensors, blowout preventers and more benefit from the growing capabilities of edge computing for real-time analytics and actuation. 

Take locomotives. These modern 200 ton digital machines carry more than 200 sensors that can pump one billion instructions per second. Today, applications can not only collect data locally and respond to changes on that data, but they can also perform meaningful localized analytics. GE Transportation’s Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive uses on-board edge computing to analyze data and apply algorithms for running smarter and more efficiently. This improves operational costs, safety, and uptime. 

Sending all that data created by the locomotive to the cloud for processing, analyzing, and actuation isn’t useful, practical, or cost-effective. 

Now let’s switch gears (pun intended) and talk about another mode of transportation—trucking. Here’s an example where edge plays an important yet minor role, while cloud assumes a more dominant position. In this example, the company has 1,000 trucks under management. There are sensors on each truck tracking performance of the vehicle such as engine, transmission, electrical, battery, and more. 

But in this case, instead of real-time analytics and actuation on the machine (like our locomotive example), the data is being ingested, then stored and forwarded to the cloud where time series data and analytics are used to track performance of vehicle components. The fleet operator then leverages a fleet management solution for scheduled maintenance and cost analysis. This gives him or her insights such as the cost over time per part type, or the median costs over time, etc. The company can use this data to improve uptime of its vehicles, lower repair costs, and improve the safe operation of the vehicle.

What’s next in edge computing 

While edge computing isn’t a new concept, innovation is now beginning to deliver on the promise—unlocking untapped value from the data being created by machines. 

GE has been at the forefront of bridging minds and machines. Predix Platform supports a consistent execution environment across cloud and edge devices, helping industrials achieve new levels of performance, production, and profit.

Originally posted here.

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TinyML focuses on optimizing machine learning (ML) workloads so that they can be processed on microcontrollers no bigger than a grain of rice and consuming only milliwatts of power.

By Arm Blueprint staff
 

TinyML focuses on the optimization of machine learning (ML) workloads so that they can be processed on microcontrollers no bigger than a grain of rice and consuming only a few milliwatts of power.

TinyML gives tiny devices intelligence. We mean tiny in every sense of the word: as tiny as a grain of rice and consuming tiny amounts of power. Supported by Arm, Google, Qualcomm and others, tinyML has the potential to transform the Internet of Things (IoT), where billions of tiny devices, based on Arm chips, are already being used to provide greater insight and efficiency in sectors including consumer, medical, automotive and industrial.

Why target microcontrollers with tinyML?

Microcontrollers such as the Arm Cortex-M family are an ideal platform for ML because they’re already used everywhere. They perform real-time calculations quickly and efficiently, so they’re reliable and responsive, and because they use very little power, can be deployed in places where replacing the battery is difficult or inconvenient. Perhaps even more importantly, they’re cheap enough to be used just about anywhere. The market analyst IDC reports that 28.1 billion microcontrollers were sold in 2018, and forecasts that annual shipment volume will grow to 38.2 billion by 2023.

TinyML on microcontrollers gives us new techniques for analyzing and making sense of the massive amount of data generated by the IoT. In particular, deep learning methods can be used to process information and make sense of the data from sensors that do things like detect sounds, capture images, and track motion.

Advanced pattern recognition in a very compact format

Looking at the math involved in machine learning, data scientists found they could reduce complexity by making certain changes, such as replacing floating-point calculations with simple 8-bit operations. These changes created machine learning models that work much more efficiently and require far fewer processing and memory resources.

TinyML technology is evolving rapidly thanks to new technology and an engaged base of committed developers. Only a few years ago, we were celebrating our ability to run a speech-recognition model capable of waking the system if it detects certain words on a constrained Arm Cortex-M3 microcontroller using just 15 kilobytes (KB) of code and 22KB of data.

Since then, Arm has launched new machine learning (ML) processors, called the Ethos-U55 and Ethos-U65, a microNPU specifically designed to accelerate ML inference in embedded and IoT devices.

The Ethos-U55, combined with the AI-capable Cortex-M55 processor, will provide a significant uplift in ML performance and improvement in energy efficiency over the already impressive examples we are seeing today.

TinyML takes endpoint devices to the next level

The potential use cases of tinyML are almost unlimited. Developers are already working with tinyML to explore all sorts of new ideas: responsive traffic lights that change signaling to reduce congestion, industrial machines that can predict when they’ll need service, sensors that can monitor crops for the presence of damaging insects, in-store shelves that can request restocking when inventory gets low, healthcare monitors that track vitals while maintaining privacy. The list goes on.

TinyML can make endpoint devices more consistent and reliable, since there’s less need to rely on busy, crowded internet connections to send data back and forth to the cloud. Reducing or even eliminating interactions with the cloud has major benefits including reduced energy use, significantly reduced latency in processing data and security benefits, since data that doesn’t travel is far less exposed to attack. 

It’s worth nothing that these tinyML models, which perform inference on the microcontroller, aren’t intended to replace the more sophisticated inference that currently happens in the cloud. What they do instead is bring specific capabilities down from the cloud to the endpoint device. That way, developers can save cloud interactions for if and when they’re needed. 

TinyML also gives developers a powerful new set of tools for solving problems. ML makes it possible to detect complex events that rule-based systems struggle to identify, so endpoint AI devices can start contributing in new ways. Also, since ML makes it possible to control devices with words or gestures, instead of buttons or a smartphone, endpoint devices can be built more rugged and deployable in more challenging operating environments. 

TinyML gaining momentum with an expanding ecosystem

Industry players have been quick to recognize the value of tinyML and have moved rapidly to create a supportive ecosystem. Developers at every level, from enthusiastic hobbyists to experienced professionals, can now access tools that make it easy to get started. All that’s needed is a laptop, an open-source software library and a USB cable to connect the laptop to one of several inexpensive development boards priced as low as a few dollars.

In fact, at the start of 2021, Raspberry Pi released its very first microcontroller board, one of the most affordable development board available in the market at just $4. Named Raspberry Pi Pico, it’s powered by the RP2040 SoC, a surprisingly powerful dual Arm Cortex-M0+ processor. The RP2040 MCU is able to run TensorFlow Lite Micro and we’re expecting to see a wide range of ML use cases for this board over the coming months.

Arm is a strong proponent of tinyML because our microcontroller architectures are so central to the IoT, and because we see the potential of on-device inference. Arm’s collaboration with Google is making it even easier for developers to deploy endpoint machine learning in power-conscious environments.

The combination of Arm CMSIS-NN libraries with Google’s TensorFlow Lite Micro (TFLu) framework, allows data scientists and software developers to take advantage of Arm’s hardware optimizations without needing to become experts in embedded programming.

On top of this, Arm is investing in new tools derived from Keil MDK to help developers get from prototype to production when deploying ML applications.

TinyML would not be possible without a number of early influencers. Pete Warden, a “founding father” of tinyML and a technical lead of TensorFlow Lite Micro at Google,&nbspArm Innovator, Kwabena Agyeman, who developed OpenMV, a project dedicated to low-cost, extensible, Python-powered machine-vision modules that support machine learning algorithms, and Arm Innovator, Daniel Situnayake a founding tinyML engineer and developer from Edge Impulse, a company that offers a full tinyML pipeline that covers data collection, model training and model optimization. Also, Arm partners such as Cartesiam.ai, a company that offers NanoEdge AI, a tool that creates software models on the endpoint based on the sensor behavior observed in real conditions have been pushing the possibilities of tinyML to another level. 

Arm, is also a partner of the TinyML Foundation, an open community that coordinates meet-ups to help people connect, share ideas, and get involved. There are many localised tinyML meet-ups covering UK, Israel and Seattle to name a few, as well as a global series of tinyML Summits. For more information, visit the tinyML foundation website.

Originally posted here.

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Once again, I’m jumping up and down in excitement because I’m going to be hosting a panel discussion as part of a webinar series — Fast and Fearless: The Future of IoT Software Development — being held under the august auspices of IotCentral.io

At this event, the second of a four-part series, we will be focusing on “AI and IoT Innovation” (see also What the FAQ are AI, ANNs, ML, DL, and DNNs? and What the FAQ are the IoT, IIoT, IoHT, and AIoT?).

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Panel members Karl Fezer (upper left), Wei Xiao (upper right), Nikhil Bhaskaran (lower left), and Tina Shyuan (bottom right) (Click image to see a larger version)

As we all know, the IoT is transforming the software landscape. What used to be a relatively straightforward embedded software stack has been revolutionized by the IoT, with developers now having to juggle specialized workloads, security, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), real-time connectivity, managing devices that have been deployed into the field… the list goes on.

In this webinar — which will be held on Tuesday 29 June 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CDT — I will be joined by four industry luminaries to discuss how to juggle the additional complexities that machine learning adds to IoT development, why on-device machine learning is more important now than ever, and what the combination of AI and IoT looks like for developers in the future.

The luminaries in question (and whom I will be questioning) are Karl Fezer (AI Ecosystem Evangelist at Arm), Wei Xiao (Principal Engineer, Sr. Strategic Alliances Manager at Nvidia), Nikhil Bhaskaran (Founder of Shunya OS), and Tina Shyuan (Director of Product Marketing at Qeexo).

So, what say you? Dare I hope that we will have the pleasure of your company and that you will be able to join us to (a) tease your auditory input systems with our discussions and (b) join our question-and-answer free-for-all frensy at the end? If so, may I suggest that you Register Now before all of the good virtual seats are taken, metaphorically speaking, of course.

>> Clicke here to register

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WEBINAR SERIES:
 
Fast and Fearless - The Future of IoT Software Development
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SUMMARY

The IoT is transforming the software landscape. What was a relatively straightforward embedded software stack, has been revolutionized due to the IoT where developers juggle specialized workloads, security, machine learning, real-time connectivity, managing devices in the field - the list goes on.

How can our industry help developers prototype ‘fearlessly’ because the tools and platforms allow them to navigate varying IoT components? How can developers move to production quickly, capitalizing on innovation opportunities in emerging IoT markets? 

This webinar series will take you through the fundamental steps, tools and opportunities for simplifying IoT development. Each webinar will be a panel discussion with industry experts who will share their experience and development tips on the below topics.

 

Part One of Four: The IoT Software Developer Experience

Date: Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Webinar Recording Available Here
 

Part Two of Four: AI and IoT Innovation

Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Time: 8:00 am PDT/ 3:00 pm UTC

Duration: 60 minutes

Click Here to Register for Part Two
 

Part Three of Four: Making the Most of IoT Connectivity

Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Time: 8:00 am PDT/ 3:00 pm UTC

Duration: 60 minutes

Click Here to Register for Part Three
 

Part Four of Four: IoT Security Solidified and Simplified

Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Time: 8:00 am PDT/ 3:00 pm UTC

Duration: 60 minutes

Click Here to Register for Part Four
 
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Happy Friday (or whatever day it is when you find yourself reading this). I’m currently bouncing off the walls in excitement because I’ve been invited to host a panel discussion as part of a webinar series — Fast and Fearless: The Future of IoT Software Development — being held under the august auspices of IoTCentral.io

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Panel members Joe Alderson (upper left), Pamela Cortez (upper right), Katherine Scott (lower left), and Ihor Dvoretskyi (bottom right)

At this event, the first of a 4-part series, we will be focusing on “The IoT Software Developer Experience.”

As we all know, the IoT is transforming the software landscape. What used to be a relatively straightforward embedded software stack has been revolutionized by the IoT, with developers now having to juggle specialized workloads, security, machine learning, real-time connectivity, managing devices that have been deployed into the field… the list goes on.

In this webinar — which will be held on Tuesday 11 May 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CDT — I will be joined by four industry luminaries to discuss the development challenges engineers are facing today, how the industry is helping to make IoT development easier, an overview of development processes (including cloud-based continuous integration (CI) workflows and low-code development), and what the future looks like for developers who are building for the IoT. 

The luminaries in question (and whom I will be questioning) are Joe Alderson (Director of Embedded Tools and User Experience at Arm), Pamela Cortez (IoT Developer Advocate and Sr. Program Manager at Microsoft Azure IoT), Katherine Scott, Developer Advocate at Open Robotics, and Ihor Dvoretskyi (Developer Advocate at Cloud Native Computing Foundation).

So, what say you? Dare I hope that we will have the pleasure of your company and that you will be able to join us to (a) tease your auditory input systems with our discussions and (b) join our question-and-answer free-for-all at the end?

Recording available:

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Well, this isn’t something I expected to be talking about today, but my chum Ben Cook just introduced me to something that looks rather cool.

Ben is the Founder and Director at Airspeed Electronics Ltd., which is an electronic design consultancy that’s based in the UK specializing in high-performance acoustic detection and tracking technology for counter-unmanned aircraft system (UAS) applications. The folks at Airspeed Electronics are currently developing a drone detection and tracking system called MANTIS, where this work is being funded through a research grant provided by the UK Ministry of Defence (which — before you make a nasty comment — is how they spell “Defense” in the UK).

MANTIS, which stands for “MAchine learNing acousTIc Surveillance,” is a system of distributed, intelligent acoustic sensors that use artificial intelligence (AI) for the detection, classification, and location estimation of UAS — such as drones — based on their acoustic signatures.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about…

In his email to me, Ben spake as follows: “Have you heard of an embedded operating system called ‘Luos’ before? It’s a microservices software architecture, like docker but for use with microcontrollers. I have no affiliation, I just stumbled across this today and I’m thinking this could be very useful for some future projects. It looks really good for anything ‘modular-y,’ if you know what I mean…”

I do know what Ben means. I just meandered my way around the luos.io website, perused and pondered the documentation at docs.luos.io, and watched this video on YouTube (later today, I’m going to get the tattoo, buy the T-shirt, and see the stage play).

In a nutshell, Luos is a simple and lightweight open-source distributed operating system dedicated to embedded systems. It uses the concept of modularity to simplify the linking of components and chunks of application code together to form a single system image.

Consider a system like a robot that uses multiple microcontrollers to manage its various sensors, actuators, and motors. If each of these microcontrollers employs Luos technology, all of them can use any feature of any microcontroller in the system as if all of the features were located in the same component.

Now, I’m a hardware design engineer by trade, so the software side is a bit outside my bailiwick, but — even so — looking at the video above and scanning the documentation makes me sit up and say, “Wow, this looks really, really cool.”

I asked around a few of my embedded systems software developer friends, and no one had heard of Luos, but I have a feeling that this may be a tool that’s poised to make a big splash. All sorts of ideas are currently bouncing around my head, like the fact that the Tracealyzer tool from Percepio would make an ideal companion for the Luos OS (see also The 2021 Embedded Online Conference Approacheth).

How about you? Have you heard of Luos? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, and if you lean toward the software side of things, it would be great if you could take a look with your highly trained eye, see what you think, and report back to the rest of us in the comments below.

Originally posted HERE

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The world has seen the emergence of countless advanced technologies over the past few decades and among them, one of the most notable and impactful has been the Internet of Things. Often described as a critical part of the foundation of our technology-driven future, IoT has shaken up pretty much every industry on the face of Earth. For the better, of course. Anyway, this transformation brought on by IoT has made its way into the world of web and mobile apps development too, and understandably so. After all, today apps are not only the most omnipresent modern tools but are relied upon by millions and millions of people every single day. Suffice it to say that app development is vital to the cause of keeping the world running and IoT has only entered the scene to further improve things. But the question remains: How?

The Internet of Things is a dynamic technology that has, for starters, completely changed how users in the digital realm interact and engage with web applications as well as mobile applications. It not only enables companies to effortlessly deal with humongous volumes of data, but also ensures top-notch security, seamless communications, and so much more. After all, the Internet of Things market is not projected to touch $11 trillion in economic value by 2025 without reason. Studies have also found that the global investment in IoT could touch $15 trillion by 2025. Now, let’s explore some of its other contributions to app development in detail.

1. Smarter UIs: While it can be quite challenging to put together UIs that integrate modern technologies and still successfully tend to users’ expectations, IoT can help considerably in this regard. It is highly conducive to the development of effective UI and integrates relevant latest trends to further enhance users’ experiences while engaging with the app. Oh, and let’s not forget that it also enables A/B split tests to help developers identify which iteration of the app is best suited for success.
2. Cybersecurity: Of course, ensuring high levels of security with your apps is a top priority for everyone. IoT helps ameliorate this process by helping programmers to integrate the latest security measures and strategies. This includes modern identification and authorization methods to monitor the continued safety of all the data stored within the app.
3. Chatbots: Now, artificial intelligence and machine learning-driven chatbots can be further integrated with the Internet of Things to empower them with access to even more sources of data. This, then, allows them to answer customers' queries and issues in a much more proficient manner, which is critical to ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction in an increasingly competitive market.
4. Data collection and processing: Data collection and its processing are critical to the success of any app in the world today. With the Internet of Things, that ability is fortified since one now gains access to a wider set of sources for data. Furthermore, IoT also helps avoid any lags in the relay of this information, thus enabling it to be used in real-time.

There is not even a shred of doubt that avant-garde technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. have completely transformed the web and mobile app development process and for good! So, if you want to take advantage of IoT and other such technologies to build modern apps that are more secure, highly customer experience-focused, and enable the seamless collection of data among other things, all you have to do is find a qualified service provider for their development. Their expertise and knowledge will further fortify your product and thus, your customers’ experiences.

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